Donald Trump’s storied business career has been marked by bankruptcies and blunders. His investment in New York University accounting professor Eli Bartov turns out to be another failed venture.
According to new Federal Election Commission filings, Trump’s Save America Political Action Committee paid Bartov nearly $930,000 last year to serve as an expert witness in the New York Attorney General’s civil fraud case that brought the former president’s real estate empire under scrutiny. was in danger.
Bartov bombed. New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron declared in December that the professor’s testimony merely proved that “for a million or more dollars, some expert will say whatever you want them to say.”
An Associated Press analysis of new Federal Election Commission filings shows the payment to Bartov is part of $54 million in legal expenses incurred last year by Trump’s political fundraising machine. The spending comes as Trump faces dozens of serious allegations in multiple lawsuits and four criminal cases.
The bulk of the payment came from Save America, with 84% of the committee’s expenses going to legal costs.
An AP review, with FEC data from 2022, found that Save America, Trump’s presidential campaign and his other fundraising organizations dedicated $76.7 million to legal fees over two years. The huge sum underscores the legal threat Trump faces as he moves toward seeking the Republican presidential nomination in 2024.
Richard Briffault, a professor at Columbia Law School in New York who is an expert in campaign finance regulation and government ethics, said that although the legal expenses are large, they are unlikely to hinder Trump’s race for the White House.
“He seems like he’s been able to raise a lot of money, so I wouldn’t really worry about the long-term impact on his campaign,” Briffault said.
Trump has denied any wrongdoing and has dismissed the long list of felony charges and lawsuits as partisan efforts to undermine his presidency. The Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment on the legal spending.
Several of his most prominent lawyers have received more than $5 million each in payments made by the former president’s campaign donors, according to FEC filings. Alina Hubba, whose New Jersey-based law firm represented Trump in a sexual harassment and defamation suit brought by advice columnist E. Jean Carroll, made the most, at $6 million.
Trump had to face a crushing defeat in the Carroll case. The jury awarded them more than $88 million. And criminal cases pose greater political and personal risks for them. Even though the former president is spending his campaign coffers to pay his personal attorney’s fees, he has tried to turn legal problems into an opportunity by portraying himself as a victim of a corrupt justice system.
Reporters and cameras often appear in large numbers when he appears in court, as they did in the Carroll and New York fraud cases, and he takes over the stage to convey the message that his political enemies will defeat him and Want to silence his supporters.
“This is a terrible thing that’s happening here,” Trump told reporters in early November after leaving the courtroom where the New York fraud case was being heard. “I think it’s a very sad day for America.”
Trump is fighting two sets of federal charges over his possession of classified records at his Mar-a-Largo resort in Florida and his alleged role in undermining the 2020 election.
He faces state charges in Georgia that he illegally conspired to overturn the election in the state. And he has been accused by New York City prosecutors of paying hush money to prevent sexual relations from becoming public during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Chris Keese, who left megafirm Foley & Lardner to become one of Trump’s lawyers, was paid $5.1 million in donor dollars over the past two years, according to FEC filings. Kiese and Hubba have represented Trump in a New York fraud trial, which could result in him being banned from doing business in the state and having to pay a fine of several hundred million dollars.
Continental PLLC, a Florida law firm she joined after leaving Foley & Lardner, received a separate $5.4 million in Trump donor money, according to records.
Trump’s campaign paid Atlanta lawyer Steven Sado $1.5 million in the second half of 2023. Trump appointed Sado to represent him in the Georgia election sabotage case.
Campaign money was also used to pay lawyers who have represented co-defendants and potential witnesses in Trump cases. Brand Woodward Law in Washington received $660,000, with most of the money coming in 2023. One of the firm’s clients, Trump valet Walt Nauta, is accused of planning to hide Mar-a-Lago security camera footage from government investigators.
Bartov, the accounting professor, did not respond to an email seeking comment. Although he’s not a lawyer, the nearly $930,000 he received from Save America for legal consulting illustrates the benefits and risks of standing in Trump’s corner.
He previously told an AP reporter that Angoron, the judge in the New York civil fraud case, had misrepresented his testimony.
The New York Attorney General’s case against Trump focuses on his business financial statements. The attorney general’s office argues that the former president falsified the value of properties such as Trump Tower and his Mar-a-Lago property in Florida to secure loans and business deals.
But Bartov, hired for his expert approach, testified in early December that he found no evidence of accounting fraud.
Judge Engoron sharply and publicly criticized Bartov in a decision issued less than two weeks later. Engoron wrote that he had previously said there were numerous and glaring errors in Trump’s financial statements.
“By stubbornly attempting to justify every misrepresentation, Professor Bartov lost all credibility,” the judge wrote.